The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher: TASIS Headmaster Returns to the Classroom

Headmaster Chris Nikoloff in the classroom

TASIS Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff found time in his busy schedule to deliver engaging lectures to five Theory of Knowledge (TOK) classes in early October, marking the first time he has served as a classroom teacher since his appointment as Headmaster in June 2017. 

A core part of the International Baccalaureate® Diploma Programme, Theory of Knowledge is a “thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing and into different kinds of knowledge” and is a mandatory course for all students pursuing the demanding IB Diploma. Mr. Nikoloff, who earned a B.A. in English and Philosophy (magna cum laude) and an M.A.T. in Education and English Literature (summa cum laude) from Boston University and an MBA from Santa Clara University, centered his lectures on Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics, inviting students to explore the following essential questions:

  • What is Ethics?
  • What are three main examples of ethical thought?
  • What is one goal toward which all humans strive for its own sake?
  • How does Aristotle define happiness?
  • What is virtue?
  • Is Ethics knowledge?
  • What are the ways of knowing Ethics?

“The current TOK curriculum does not have much to say about Virtue Ethics, so I was asked to contribute due to my minor obsession with Aristotle,” he explained. “I am always astonished at how relevant his ideas remain today.”

Mr. Nikoloff taught an elective seminar based on Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas—the first three of which are Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, the supreme ideals etched on the façade of the M. Crist Fleming Library—while serving as Headmaster at the prestigious Harker School in San Jose, California, from 2005–2017. He was clearly excited to be back in the classroom, and students fed off his energy—even in the final class on a Friday preceding a long weekend. 

“His teaching style was the driving force of the lesson,” said Nicole Abrate Echezarreta ’20, who attended the Friday afternoon lecture on October 4. “He was engaging and very passionate about the topic, and that was extremely visible. His words were clear and his explanations were thoughtful, and that made us think more deeply about how you view ‘simple’ concepts such as what is right or wrong, or what it means to be happy.”

Verum Bonum Pulchrum

Mr. Nikoloff, who has also set a goal of visiting as many classrooms as possible in the role of observer, relished the opportunity to interact with TASIS students in a new way and hopes to continue doing so as the year progresses. 

“I loved returning to the classroom and plan to teach more as time allows,” he said. “I am planning to conduct a voluntary lunchtime seminar on the philosophical grounding behind the ideas of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. I ran a single lunchtime discussion on these ideas last year with graduating seniors and very much enjoyed learning more about our students’ views on these matters.”

Count Abrate Echezarreta among the students who are likely to take advantage of these future opportunities. “I really enjoyed this class and his personality as a teacher, which I would not have gotten to know if I knew him only as the TASIS Headmaster,” she said. “I hope I get to learn from him in the classroom again.” 

A quick look at Mr. Nikoloff in action

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